3 May 2007

Cycle Usage - Herts Advertiser Letters

In the Herts Advertiser last week there were two letters complaining of difficulties driving in St Albans, which seemed to need a reply, here is what I sent....

Two correspondents on last week’s letters page (Herts Advertiser, April 26th) Jo Tatlock and Barrie Mort made me realise that we in St Albans Cycle Campaign (STACC) have much to do in addressing our principle aim which is “To encourage cycle usage in the St Albans District”.

Both writers complain about problems of driving and finding parking space in St Albans - both mention periods of 20 minutes of queuing or hunting for parking spaces. All they have done is stayed with the car habit so I do not seek to criticise them at all, just to encourage them and other readers who have similar difficulties - to consider if there is a better way.

I note that Jo lives in Harlesden Road and Barrie in Westfields. Both these roads are within easy cycling distance of the city centre. Readers may regard the prospect of cycling with some apprehension; so I thought a practical demonstration of the bike’s speed and convenience would be a gentle, timed round trip between the city centre and each of their homes. I did this on Tuesday May 1st, between 12 noon and 1 p.m.

From Harlesden Road to the Old Town Hall via the quiet route of York Road, Manor Road etc took 11 minutes (including time to lock my bike to the convenient rack - right where the shops are). Return journey by the faster, more direct Hatfield Road - just over 8 minutes.

From the Town Hall to Barrie’s in Westfields via Holywell and St Stephen’s Hills and Watford Road (perhaps too daunting for some) took 15 minutes. Return via (shock horror!!) Verulamium Park and George Street, 13 minutes.

In case readers think that they are too old to cycle, I will add - purely in the interests of scientific research - that I am 72 years old and overweight. (These facts may not be used for any other purpose!!)

An experienced car driver can adapt readily to cycling, because he/she already has all the road sense skills, it’s just a matter of extending these skills a little. Adult cycling courses are available - notably soon - ‘Women On Wheels’ FREE Cycling skills training for women at Luton 4-8 June incl M-F 12:00 - 14:00. Bike supplied or take your own. Details Tel: 01582 547153

STACC can give you lots more advice on cycling - get in touch.

No doubt there will be protests about me riding in Verulamium Park - but if readers can see something more than that from this letter I will count it as a modest step in the right direction.

And for those few who couldn’t ever cycle, don’t forget the buses.

I didn't give the writers a hard time by saying they - and by implication all similar readers - were foolish for using a car, as I feel that being prescriptive is the wrong way to go. By giving encouragement and setting an example, we can hope that they will suddenly realise, all by themselves, that cycling is a quite reasonable way of getting about.

It's good to keep a topic going, so some supportive responses in next week's HA would nudge the message along a bit more. Over to you.

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